Adam Silver

Silver No Longer Optimistic About December 1 Start For 2020/21

NBA commissioner Adam Silver told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols ahead of tonight’s draft lottery that he now expects the league’s previously-estimated December 1 start date for the 2020/21 regular season to be pushed back, per Brian Windhorst of ESPN.

In explaining his thinking, Silver indicated that he would prefer to have fans be able to attend games in person next season.

“I think our No. 1 goal is to get fans back in our arenas,” he told Nichols. “So my sense is, in working with the [National Basketball] Players Association, if we could push back even a little longer and increase the likelihood of having fans in arenas, that’s what we would be targeting.”

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has prevented gatherings of large crowds, with fan attendance for major concerts, indoor movie theaters, and sporting events having been widely postponed until 2021. The United States saw 43,798 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 yesterday.

Until an effective vaccine is widely available to the public, it may be difficult to allow fans inside basketball arenas, though Silver remains hopeful that the anticipated development fast-response coronavirus tests may soon make in-arena attendance more feasible.

Crowd attendance makes up a significant portion of the league’s seasonal revenue. Per the Windhorst piece, Silver accredits approximately 40% of NBA revenue to fans filling arenas.

Adam Silver Talks NBA Restart, Finances, ’20/21 Season

The NBA’s restart at Walt Disney World has been “better than what we had envisioned” so far, commissioner Adam Silver tells Chris Mannix of Praising those involved in the plan for the sacrifices they’ve made, Silver notes that the players have “taken to it in a more spirited way” than the league anticipated.

As Silver explains in his conversation with Mannix, a number of players who aren’t participating in the restart – either because their teams weren’t invited or because they couldn’t play due to injuries or other issues – have reached out to say that they wish they could be part of the NBA’s summer in Orlando.

Speaking to Mannix, Silver touched on several other topics, including the long road back to resuming the 2019/20 season, NBA players’ advocacy on social justice issues, and the criticism the league has faced from some observers due to its social justice statements.

The conversation is worth checking out in full, but here are a few of the highlights from the NBA commissioner:

On Silver’s biggest regret about the restart plan:

“I’d say my biggest disappointment is that we couldn’t find a sensible way to bring 30 teams down there. We know everything here involves compromises, but I do feel bad there are eight teams that are not part of the experience.”

On how the NBA would have been impacted financially if the season hadn’t resumed:

“In terms of a net basis, it’s not as dramatically different as people might think, because it is so costly to do what we’re doing in Orlando. It’s not a sustainable model, but we also recognize that this virus will end and that at some point we will return to more of a normal business operation with fans in seats. But I recognize that there’s a chance that still this season could come to a halt. The league certainly would have survived had we been forced to shut down, and it will survive if we’re forced to shut down sometime before October.”

On the NBA’s plans for the 2020/21 season:

“We are deep into the planning stages, but only to the extent that we have dozens of permutations as we look into next season. It’s certainly not bubble or bust. Our first and highest priority would be to find a way to have fans in our arenas.

“We’re continuing to look at all the different testing methods. We are current on vaccine developments and antivirals and other protocols around the possibility of bringing people together in arenas. We’re studying what colleges are doing as they look to bring thousands of students back on campus.

“We’re going to try to find the right balance between waiting as long as possible, so we have the best possible information at the time we’re making the decision, and recognizing that, at some point, we have to begin to lock in plans. We would like to find a way to play in front of fans, but it’s just too early to know how realistic this is.”

Restart Notes: Tipline, Departures, Testing, Missing Eight

Numerous players have circumvented the anonymous tipline by contacting commissioner Adam Silver directly, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reports (video link). The tipline was established to encourage players to report violations of protocol at the Orlando campus. Dwight Howard, Richaun Holmes and Bruno Caboclo were among the players reprimanded by the league for violations since teams arrived in Orlando.

We have more restart-related news:

  • The teams in Orlando that don’t make the playoffs will head home immediately, Haynes tweets. NBA teams that have been mathematically eliminated on or before Wednesday will head home right after their final game has ended.
  • The league has taken some heat for seemingly preferential treatment in terms of access to COVID-19 testing. Players and staff members have been tested multiple times but the league isn’t taking away tests from the general public, as Mark Medina of USA Today explains. The NBA launched a community testing program that will provide thousands of COVID-19 PCR tests for free, both in Orlando and in the league’s 29 other team markets, through this month.
  • The biggest losers in the restart were the eight teams who weren’t invited to Orlando, Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today opines. Several of those teams have young rosters that could have benefited from additional playing time. There have been discussions about bringing those teams to Orlando once others start leaving after being eliminated from contention but it’s unlikely to become a reality, Zillgitt adds.

Restart Notes: COVID-19, Campus, Silver, Drug Testing

Less than a week into the Major League Baseball season, more than a dozen players and staffers on the Miami Marlins tested positive for the coronavirus, resulting in multiple postponed games and serious questions about the viability of MLB’s plan to complete its season. However, because the NBA has gathered its teams in a single location, the league remains confident in its plan despite observing the MLB outbreak from afar, writes Mark Medina of USA Today.

“I don’t even compare the two,” Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said. “What they’re doing and what we’re doing is so different. I like what we’re doing.”

“I wasn’t sure if I was going to feel safe here, and I feel super safe,” Pelicans guard J.J. Redick said of the NBA’s campus. “This is an environment here I feel has been really good. The protocols are in place. It’s hard to compare what baseball or the NFL is doing because it’s not what we’re doing. We’re doing something completely different. But obviously we’re all watching to see how baseball and football work given the uncertainty of next season as well.”

As Medina points out, the NBA isn’t ready to run a victory lap just yet, considering its season won’t be over for another two-plus months, and plenty could go wrong between now and then. However, the last coronavirus testing update issued by the league indicated that there had been zero new positive tests on the Walt Disney World campus, which bodes well for the NBA’s plan.

Here’s more on the restart:

  • While MLB’s coronavirus outbreak may not be of immediate concern to the NBA, it will give the league more to think about in relation to its 2020/21 season, writes Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. The ’20/21 campaign is tentatively scheduled to begin as early as December and the hope is that teams will be able to play in their home arenas.
  • NBA commissioner Adam Silver, who is scheduled to make his first appearance at the Florida campus this week, said he thinks the league’s plan is going “very well” so far, as Marc Stein of The New York Times writes. “I’m cautiously optimistic that we’re on the right track,” Silver said.
  • The NBA sent a reminder today to teams that random drug testing for steroids, PEDs, masking agents, and diuretics will resume on Thursday when seeding games get underway, a source tells Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated (Twitter link). The NBA and NBPA previously reached an agreement to resume PED and steroid testing this summer, while marijuana testing remains paused.
  • As Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press details, the NBA’s efforts to keep its Orlando campus safe even extend to new protocols for the handling of referee whistles.

Silver Remains Optimistic About Resuming Season

NBA commissioner Adam Silver remains confident the league will restart the season at the end of July despite growing concerns from a faction of players, Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN relays. Silver made his comments during ESPN’s special “Return To Sports” broadcast on Monday evening.

Silver is sensitive and sympathetic to the feeling of some players that the resumption of play could take the focus off social justice reforms. A player coalition led by Nets star Kyrie Irving and Lakers guard Avery Bradley is pursuing a further examination of the league’s plan to restart the season in Orlando.

That group has also raised concerns regarding an increase in positive coronavirus cases in Florida; the restrictive environment in the Orlando Disney bubble, insurance for players regarding potential illnesses; and the risk of injuries during an accelerated finish.

“Listen, it’s not an ideal situation,” Silver said. “We are trying to find a way to our own normalcy in the middle of a pandemic, in the middle of essentially a recession or worse with 40 million unemployed, and now with enormous social unrest in the country. And so as we work through these issues, I can understand how some players may feel, that it’s not for them … it may be for family reasons, it may be for health reasons they have, or it may be because they feel — as some players have said very recently — that their time is best spent elsewhere.”

Silver believes the league could heighten awareness and get the social justice message across effectively while getting back in action. It would also be a major financial boost for all parties involved.

“In terms of social justice issues, it’ll be an opportunity for NBA players in the greater community to draw attention to the issues because the world’s attention will be on the NBA in Orlando if we’re able to pull this off. … I think part of it’s going to require a fair amount of listening, something we’ve been doing already,” he said. “But then engaging in very deliberate behavior, together with the players, in terms of how can we use our larger platform, the NBA together with the players, really to effect change.”

Concerns regarding the coronavirus itself and those at greatest risk are also being addressed. The league has sent teams a medical history questionnaire for players, coaches and their traveling party to fill out, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. Medical professionals will use that information to determine if members can fully participate in the restart, be restricted from certain activities, or be excused due to pre-existing conditions.

Restart Notes: FA Moratorium, Safety Protocols, BBL

With the NBA targeting October 15 for its 2020 draft and October 18 for the start of free agency, the player-movement portion of this year’s offseason figures to be fast-paced and hectic. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the moratorium at the start is expected to reflect that compressed timeline.

“I’m told the moratorium will only last two days,” Charania said during an appearance on The Pat McAfee Show (video link). “October 20, it’ll be lifted so guys can sign contracts. Usually the moratorium can be anywhere from six to seven days. Now, because of this truncated schedule, two days.”

As we explain in our glossary entry on the subject, the July moratorium – which runs from the start of free agency (June 30 or July 1) until July 6 – is a period in which agreements on free agent deals and trades can be reached, but most of those agreements can’t be officially completed. This year, it sounds like the first contracts agreed upon at the start of free agency can be signed just a couple days later.

Here’s more on the NBA’s restart:

  • In an excellent behind-the-scenes story, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne looks at how the NBA and NBPA formulated a plan for the resumption of the season, focusing on the relationships NBPA president Chris Paul has with commissioner Adam Silver and Disney executive chairman Bob Iger.
  • Appearing this morning on ESPN’s Get Up (video link), Brian Windhorst said the NBA will soon disseminate a series of healthy and safety protocols for its return that will be over 100 pages long. “The schedule part of this was easy,” Windhorst said. “The health and safety part of this is going to be harder than you can possibly imagine.”
  • German’s Basketball Bundesliga (BBL) is asking players to wear chips to monitor their movements as they resume play this weekend, according to ESPN’s Zach Lowe and Jonathan Givony. The BBL doesn’t have a players’ union and it sounds as if players aren’t thrilled about the fact that they weren’t informed of the league’s plans, but commissioner Stefan Holz insists the chips are “optional” and are only for COVID-19 tracing purposes. The NBA will be paying close attention to the resumption of play in Germany, per ESPN’s duo, since the league may be able to incorporate some of the BBL’s ideas into its restart (though I’m not sure the NBPA would be enthusiastic about tracking chips).

Adam Silver Addresses NBA Return

NBA commissioner Adam Silver appeared on TNT’s Inside The NBA this evening to discuss the league’s officially confirmed 22-team return this summer. Silver touched on a potpourri of topics.

Though more radical season structuring options were discussed, Silver hailed Hornets owner and former five-time NBA MVP Michael Jordan as being an important voice in helping pass the current resumption plan. Silver mentioned that Jordan did not want the league’s return to feel “gimmicky” with excessive playoff format tweaks, per Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer (Twitter link).

Hall of Fame player-turned-broadcaster Charles Barkley asked Silver about the NBA’s protocol for dealing with a player testing positive for COVID-19, as cited by Tania Ganguli of the LA Times (Twitter link). Silver mentioned that this had been discussed with health officials. The league would not need to pause play, but instead would isolate the player and use contact tracing and daily testing to contain the spread.

Silver delicately handled questions about how the league would deal with older coaches on team benches, mentioning that “certain coaches” might not be able to be present on the sidelines, per an exchange captured by Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link).

Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni, Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry, and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich are the three head coaches who, at 65 and older, would be at elevated risk of serious COVID-19 complications were they to contract the virus. Assistants like Jeff Bzdelik (Pelicans) and Lionel Hollins (Clippers) also fall within that age bracket.

Gentry voiced his displeasure with the notion of being separated from his team, per Ramon Shelburne of ESPN (Twitter link). “That doesn’t make sense,” Gentry said. “How can I coach that way?”

D’Antoni also questioned the idea of singling out older coaches with more protective measures, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link). “I am sure they want to keep everyone safe,” D’Antoni said. “But to start singling people out with more risk, well, I would hope they wouldn’t want to get into that.”

Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle tells Woj (Twitter links) that he talked to Silver and the commissioner “admitted that he jumped the gun” with his comments on older coaches.

“It’s entirely possible that an NBA coach in his 60s or 70s could be healthier than someone in their 30s or 40s,” Carlisle said. “The conversation should never be solely about a person’s age. Adam assured me that we would work through this together to help determine what is both safe and fair for all of our coaches.”

NBA Expected To Approve 22-Team Return-To-Play Format

11:25am: The NBA’s Board of Governors is expected to approve Silver’s plan on Thursday, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

10:00am: When he meets with the NBA’s Board of Governors on Thursday, commissioner Adam Silver intends to propose a return-to-play plan that will see 22 teams resume their seasons, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The NBA reportedly discussed proposals involving 16, 20, 22, or 30 teams last week, with that 22-team format gaining increased support. Although the ownership groups from teams like the Hawks and Bulls expressed a desire to participate, per Charania, the plan will exclude them and the rest of the NBA’s bottom-eight teams in order to limit – to some extent – the number of people the league will have to bring into its “bubble” in Orlando.

As Charania details, the 22-team format would bring back the 16 current playoff teams, along with six additional clubs who are within six games of a postseason spot (the Trail Blazers, Pelicans, Kings, Spurs, Suns, and Wizards).

The plan would see those 22 clubs play eight regular season games apiece, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link), before a play-in tournament is held for the eighth seed. The play-in format would be as follows, per Charania:

  • If the No. 9 seed is more than four games behind the No. 8 seed, the No. 8 seed would automatically earn the playoff spot.
  • If the No. 9 seed is within four games of the No. 8 seed, those two teams would enter a play-in tournament for the final playoff spot in the conference. Such a tournament would be double-elimination for the No. 8 seed and single-elimination for the No. 9 seed (ie. a best-of-three series, with the No. 8 seed given a 1-0 lead to start).

Currently, the Grizzlies hold a 3.5-game lead on Portland, New Orleans, and Sacramento in the West, with San Antonio four games back, and Phoenix six games back. In the East, the Magic have a 5.5-game lead on the Wizards, so Washington would need to make up some ground to force a play-in tournament.

Besides giving those six current lottery teams a chance to make the postseason, the format will allow all 22 clubs to surpass 70 regular season games, ensuring that many of them meet the requirements for regional TV contracts, which will help out the league financially.

According to Charania, July 31 remains the target date for the resumption of the 2019/20 season, with the draft lottery and combine – which had been postponed indefinitely – now expected to take place in August. Presumably, those events would take different forms than they normally do, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. It’s not clear yet how the 2020 lottery odds may be affected by the play-in tournament format.

[RELATED: Proposed NBA Plan Would Complete Finals By October 12]

The NBA’s proposal for the resumption of the season is also expected to include many medical and safety protocols, Charania notes. Sources tell The Athletic that those protocols will likely include players showering at their hotels rather than in the arena, inactive players sitting in the stands instead of on the bench, and players not being permitted to bring guests into the “bubble” until the postseason begins.

Any proposal from the NBA will require approval from at least three-quarters of the league’s Board of Governors (ie. 23 of 30 team owners). However, even if the plan isn’t every club’s first choice, there’s an expectation that team owners will get behind Silver and vote in favor of his proposal.

The Board of Governors’ Thursday call is scheduled for 12:30pm eastern time, tweets Wojnarowski.

NBA Targeting July 31 For Return To Play

NBA commissioner Adam Silver and the league office informed the Board of Governors on today’s conference call that July 31 is the tentative target date for a return to play, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

That target date doesn’t tell us exactly when the NBA would want its season to end, since we don’t know how many games will be played once the season resumes. However, a typical postseason requires about two months from start to finish, so it appears as if the league is comfortably playing through August and September.

According to Charania (via Twitter), the NBA discussed four potential return scenarios on today’s call with team owners. Those scenarios were as follows:

  1. Bringing back 16 teams and advancing directly to the postseason.
  2. Bringing back 20 teams and using a play-in pool that would involve a group stage.
    • Note: The Trail Blazers, Pelicans, Kings, and Spurs would likely be involved in this scenario in addition to the playoff teams.
  3. Bringing back 22 teams and playing regular season games to determine seeding. A play-in tournament would then be used to determine the final playoff teams.
    • Note: The Suns and Wizards would be added to this scenario, as ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne tweets.
  4. Bringing back 30 teams, completing a 72-game regular season, then conducting a play-in tournament for the final playoff teams.

Within each of those scenarios, the NBA could tweak the details and go in a few different directions. For instance, even something a solution as simple as advancing to the postseason with the current top-eight seeds in each conference could involve reseeding those teams from one through 16, regardless of conference.

It seems like a safe bet, however, that the format the league eventually lands on won’t stray too far from one of those four options. Marc Berman of The New York Post tweets that returning with 24 teams is believed to still be on the table as well, so that may be a variation of the third option listed above.

According to Charania (via Twitter), that fourth and final option – with all 30 teams returning to play – looks like the least likely outcome. Charania reports that Hornets owner Michael Jordan advocated on today’s call for player safety and not asking players to return for meaningless games — that viewpoint has been voiced by at least one superstar player as well. So unless all 30 teams get a chance to make the playoffs, which seems like a long shot, the NBA is unlikely to bring them all back.

The NBA and NBPA are expected to further deliberate in the coming days, with Silver potentially bringing a proposal back to the Board of Governors for a vote next week.

Board Of Governors Meeting Unlikely To Yield Final Plan

The NBA’s Board of Governors remote meeting with commissioner Adam Silver on Friday is not expected to result in finalized plans for the resumption of this season, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets.

This speaks to the difficulties of getting everyone around the league to agree on a format and guidelines to restart the season. A wide range of options have been considered, varying from having all teams return to action to just the 16 clubs currently holding playoff spots.

Talks on incorporating the three most serious plans remain ongoing with the teams and the National Basketball Players Association, Wojnarowski adds, without specifying that trio of options.

Players Association executive director Michele Roberts has been conducting team-by-team conference calls with players this week, spelling out the various formats, as well as the financial implication of those options.

Orlando has emerged as the likely place where games will be conducted.